EDS: Let’s Talk About It

One of the more entertaining features of EDS is meeting what I call the newbie attendees on day 3 of the show. They have what in the post-Vietnam era is called the thousand-yard stare. They've had so much sensory overload at this point that they have to refer to their own business card to introduce themselves. If they can focus on your business card, you're ahead of the game.

When a newbie asks, “Why on earth does anybody attend this show?” I always have the answer: Because it serves its audience. Period.

First, a little background on EDS: It has a show floor where product vendors set up booths, but the real power is concentrated up in the suites, where suppliers and their distributors meet behind closed doors. The three-day marathon is an opportunity for 75 or so distributors to meet with hundreds of suppliers. Meetings are held every hour from 6:00 a.m. through dinner. (At least, dinner is when the formal scheduling ends.)

Unlike at CES, people don't attend EDS primarily to look at new products. The show no longer has a keynote speaker or hands-on workshops. There are a few press conferences, but not many. In fact, the news media is kind of an annoyance unless you have a product to pitch. We take up time that's better spent talking to your partners.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about this. Trying to file a story while attending EDS would be just silly. It actually works for me that this is not a news-driven tradeshow. I need a couple of hours of sleep just so I can sprint from meeting to meeting.

So back to why anyone attends EDS — it serves its audience of distributors and suppliers. They are on the show's planning board and work in conjunction with industry associations such as the ECIA and the ERA, which sponsor the event. The movers and shakers have determined that their time is best spent in face-to-face meetings. Organizations such as the ECIA and ERA execute on their behalf. That's what trade groups do.

In the past, the EDS board has tried to attract outsiders by featuring a marquee keynote speaker. It has tried workshops, panels, and changes of venue. None of those really stuck. The show isn't for outsiders, so a keynote is extraneous. Most attendees already know their technology and how to sell it, so panels and workshops aren't much use. The one year the show was held in Orlando is recalled with the same fondness as the Black Plague. There are probably 100 other efforts I've forgotten about in the 20-odd years I've been attending the show.

Those in the electronics industry are always discussing whether tradeshows are extinct. Comdex is gone. CES is a circus. Frankly, I'm not qualified to attend the more technical shows. So I'm posing the question to the audience: Why do you attend EDS? Does it work for you and your company? What, if anything, would you change? And how many shows do you have to attend before you are no longer a newbie?

You'd think that, with a meeting-driven format, attendees would be rabid about getting to their meetings on time, and that missed meetings would draw ire. It doesn't. When you are late, miss a meeting, or are completely MIA, people just shrug and say, “It's EDS.”

It is.

13 comments on “EDS: Let’s Talk About It

  1. bolaji ojo
    May 15, 2012

    I get jealous looks each time I tell friends I would be attending the Electronics Distribution Show (EDS) in Las Vegas. Then I go, get back, tell friends I was at EDS in Las Vegas and get even more jealous looks. I get asked to spill the beans. I try to sound smart: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” I say, with a worldly look. Inside, though, I am tired and can't wait to crawl away to sleep off the weariness.

    What happens at EDS each year? I arrive, check in, register at the conference registration booth and head for the first interviews, meetings and race to another appointment through the conference show ground. Then back to the hotel room (through the brilliantly lit casino floor) to file stories and make more phone calls. I sleep late and get up early then repeat these activities the next day and on the fourth day, head to the airport for the trip home.

    Poor me? Heck no. Those meetings have helped me better understand the market, the challenges facing businesses in the electronics industry, the opportunities companies are creating and establish long-lasting relationships with industry executives. Along the way, I have also developed huge respect for the gals and guys in the trenches. EDS may be exhausting but the knowledge treasures I haul away each year, plus the contacts made, have been worth it every single year.

  2. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 15, 2012

    Excellent point, Bolaji. It's a privilege to sit behind those closed doors once in awhile and listen to what distributors, suppliers, executives, reps and salespeople have to say. We come home tired, but we come home better informed.

  3. Laurie Sullivan
    May 15, 2012

    Ah, memories.  🙂  I'm jealous. 

  4. stochastic excursion
    May 16, 2012

    Am I hearing there will be stories on the back-room deals that took place?  Anyway, busy is good!  Sounds like the world will keep turning til the next EDS rolls around.

    May 16, 2012

    Not having attended EDS is it hard for me to comment but from reading your article it sure sounds it is heading for a meeting with the Dodo.

  6. Cryptoman
    May 16, 2012

    I have not attended the EDS either but I can say a few words on attending exhibitions and shows.

    I have spent most of my professional life in small businesses (SMEs) where the budgets are limited, efficient work is critical and where there is a constant drive to bring new business in. Therefore, for SMEs attending trade shows is something that needs to be thought carefully as this means extra cost. This extra cost needs to be compensated by bringing new business to the company. General approach taken by the direcors of SMEs is based on the following simple question most of the time “How much business potential does a trade show offer?” Due to the cost concerns, attending trade shows that offer no potential business return is often not even considered by the SMEs. Some exhibitions offer great opportunities for engineers to gain knowledge on new technologies but no potential business. However, the SME bosses are so focused on hard cash that these good chances are ruled out and ignored.

    This is different for big companies where engineers are free to attend the relevant exhibitions regardless of the business potentials involved. I know in some companies engineers are 'strongly encouraged' to follow and attend trade shows to show presence.

  7. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 16, 2012

    @cryptoman: Thanks for your perspective. You make a very important point and it does pertain to EDS. EDS was originally established so that SMBs in the tech sector could attract the attention of distributors and other potential sales channels. Most of these companies were not household names; displayed their products in their booth; and measured their ROI in the number of distributors (or OEM customers) they could sign. That population has declined, and my impression is that franchises are not given away on the show floor. A supplier and a distributor have to invest time and money in one another and it is not a handshake deal anymore. On the other hand, just having a booth or your name on the registration list may develop a familiarity, so when you call a distributor, they'll have an idea who you are.

  8. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 16, 2012

    Laurie: I'm curious if you attend other trade shows and how they compare to EDS? It's been awhile since I had the time or resources to attend a trade show for the sake of attending a trade show. I will say the venue of EDS (the Cosmopolitan) blows the top off of previous locations, although sprinting from the show floor to the suites and back again hasn't changed a bit. 🙂

  9. Cryptoman
    May 16, 2012

    I am surprised to hear that there is a declining trend in closing deals on the trade floor in EDS. I was almost certain that distributors and suppliers would be shaking hands on new business there and then. If the distributors and the suppliers visit EDS just to establish an initial familiarity, this sounds like little benefit for the costs involved.

    Having said that the biggest advantage seems to be because everyone is present in the same place, many companies can meet one another in a time-efficient way without having to spend too much time travelling and organising meetings.



  10. _hm
    May 16, 2012

    It looks EDS to be quite esoteric in nature. They should also introduce some parts making it interesting for average technical person.


  11. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 17, 2012

    @cryptoman: I didn't mean to imply that a lot of deals aren't made on the show floor. They are. It's just that deals are no longer sealed with a handshake. The supplier-distributor relationship has become so complex that a lot of due diligence and negotiation has to happen before the first part is ever sold. There is a lot of value for suppliers in getting their products out in front of potential distributors. And distributors could add a line or two and almost carry inventory from the show floor. Trade issues and environmental regulations are just two of the hurdles these partners have to iron out…life was simpler 'back then.'

  12. elctrnx_lyf
    May 17, 2012

    I believe it's always a great way to bring different stake holders at one place to have discussions about establishing relationship. It's always easier this way and I feel it still works.

  13. Mr. Roques
    May 18, 2012

    Networking… what else? You get to see new products but mainly, you go to network (hopefully for the benefit of company, but at least, for the benefit of those attending).

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